We're in the heart of the American Ninja Warrior off-season, but that doesn't mean there isn't still plenty of "Ninja" going on.
Last week, seemingly all of the top ninja athletes flew to Texas and took on the Titan of Texas Challenge. Congratulations again to the winners Drew Drechsel and Barclay Stockett! I'm sure everyone knows who Drew is - he kinda killed it in both Sasuke and American Ninja this year! And we'll see more of Barclay in the upcoming season of Team Ninja Warrior!
Also we're five events into the National Ninja League, with events each and every week, from now through February!
In case you are unfamiliar with the National Ninja League, it is a collection of local American Ninja Warrior style competitions wherein; the top 3 male athletes and the top 3 female athletes advance to a national finals competition. Basically, think of Ninja Warrior for the ninjas who just don't get enough competing and playing on obstacles during the regular season, and yes that is pretty much all of them! Each local competition acts as the city qualifying and city finals rounds and the national finals are just like the show, a 4 stage battle with the only best of the best ninjas taking on the course.
Over on ANWFantasy.com we even host fantasy events for each of these local competitions. The person who selects the best fantasy lineup (slightly different scoring than our regular rules) wins an American Ninja Warrior themed t-shirt!
This week 100 determined athletes will head to Pinnacle Parkour in Cherry Hill, New Jersey to take on a National Ninja League course designed by 5 time American Ninja Warrior Veteran "Captain NBC" Jamie Rahn. This is the biggest field of the season so far, and it is absolutely stacked with talent!
There are already 6 Vegas finalists from season 8 signed up for the event (Allyssa Beird, Jesse Labreck, Mike Chick, Anthony DeFranco, Nick Kostreski, and Michael Torres). In total, over a dozen ninjas who've had their runs aired on TV are competing this weekend. Those are just the names you've seen before. There is an abundance of awesome aspiring ninjas looking to make a name for themselves and earn their spot in the National Ninja League National Finals.
So what kind of obstacles can we expect to see this weekend and at other National Ninja League competitions? Well that is really anyone's guess! National Ninja League guidelines require a "steps-like" obstacle, and a "wall-like" obstacle and that's it. From there it falls to the gym owners to come up with the rest of the course.
I've personally been to PPK Cherry Hill several times for Jamie's competitions, and the one thing you can count on is that there will be always be some crazy, completely new obstacles! Jamie prides himself on the making challenging, fun, and creative obstacles, and it amazes me what he can come up with every time.
We all know Jamie for his costumed alter-ego but he's been an incredibly strong ninja for a long time and great parkour practitioner for even longer. For the past couple month's he's been teasing us on his Instagram (@jamierahn) with "Sasuke style" obstacle logos as teasers of what we can expect this weekend.
Unfortunately, I don't have any good guesses as to what any of these could be! Jamie even left us with this awesome fake teaser which looks insanely hard but also like a ton of fun!
For a little more background on NNL events at PPK Cherry Hill, last year the PPK Cherry Hill event was again the biggest of the season, featuring 92 phenomenal athletes. In the end, Geoff Britten and Jesse Labreck took home the top prizes (a few months later these two would go further than anyone else for their respective genders at the national finals too)!
Rounding out the top three for the men were Yancey Quezada and Jon Stevens, and for the women it was Allyssa Beird and Jessica Britten.
Here's a video of Jesse's third place run and Geoff's 1st place run last year!
This is the second season for the National Ninja League, and its already poised to be bigger, and better than the inaugural season. They've added a youth division, and many more gyms are hosting competitions.To catch up on all the action so far check out the National Ninja League Youtube channel, Every week Chris Wilczewski (the brains behind the NNL) recaps last week's competition and previews the upcoming event. There is also an up to date listing of all the run results available here.
Last week the Tennesseans of Team Nash came in and took Louisiana by storm placing 1st and 3rd on the male side, and Rachel Brown took home first for the females at NOLA Muscle Park. So far the highlight of the season easily goes to Jesse Labreck beating all the guys and taking first place in the Gravity Forge National Ninja League Qualifier.